Prospective University nursing students from disadvantaged backgrounds will continue to receive guidance and support through Gaining Excellence in Nursing Education: Strength in the Sciences, a School of Nursing program that was recently granted $1.5 million from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services over a three-year period to continue awarding scholarships and mentoring students.

Nursing Prof. Patricia Coleman-Burns, the director of GENESIS, said the program focuses on preparing high school students for the University’s nursing curriculums and providing financial support and advising for students enrolled in the University’s nursing program.

According to Coleman-Burns, the goal of GENESIS is to provide more opportunities for students from underrepresented groups to earn a nursing degree and increase the number of minority students matriculating into nursing schools.

Nursing Dean Kathleen Potempa wrote in an e-mail interview that GENESIS is essential for maintaining diversity and a high standard of excellence, in the Nursing School.

“The University of Michigan School of Nursing is committed to graduating nursing professionals who represent and will provide world-class care for people of all backgrounds and cultures,” she wrote. “The GENESIS program is an excellent means to finding and retaining students with the potential to achieve great success.”

In fall 2011, the Nursing School enrolled 916 females and 64 males, according to the Office of the Registar. The school had 772 white students, 46 Black students, 48 Asian students and 35 Hispanic students.

Coleman-Burns said many high school counselors are not knowledgeable about the track to receiving a nursing degree, and the program is designed to combat the lack of awareness. She added she believes it is essential for prospective nursing students to pursue a college preparatory curriculum in middle and high school.

“Too often if a young person indicates an interest in nursing, they are diverted from a college prep program, with lots of math and science and writing skills, to a vocational experience, which doesn’t help the kind of talent that we need going into the 21st century,” she said.

Once enrolled in the program, students are supported through peer study groups, mentoring and cultural competence training to help them succeed at the University and in their careers.

“The issue becomes the retention and progress in graduation rates of students who may come from communities that ill-prepared them to compete successfully with their peers from the entering freshman class,” Coleman-Burns said.

Nursing junior Jocelyn Duggan said she thinks GENESIS is a beneficial tool to help students understand and succeed in the University’s rigorous nursing program.

“It is important, especially with the health care shortage, to be able help recruit and prepare students for the program,” she said.

Coleman-Burns said that of the 75 students who have participated in GENESIS since it started, 66 have graduated.

“The true test of our commitment to the education endeavor is to see the students come out with a degree,” she said.

She added that furthering diversity in the nursing field is a key aspect of the project, as research shows that students who come from rural or disadvantaged communities are likely to return to those places once they receive their degrees, and can help reduce health problems that exist there.

“When we bring in persons who have, perhaps, a vested interest in rural communities and serving and doing the research that will improve the health of the communities they come from, it improves the science that we are well known for here at the University,” Coleman-Burns said. “That really is how diversity does inform and improve the excellence and quality of the scholarly science that we do at the University.”

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